Mattis praises and criticizes Beijing on North Korea and South China Sea

Mattis, speaking here at the Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit, said that the Trump administration is encouraged by China's "renewed commitment" to pressure North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program, but that the United States will not accept China's military buildup in the South China Sea.

Mattis noted that last week the Pentagon conducted what it called a successful test of its missile defense system, which is being developed mainly with North Korea in mind. The White House has repeatedly called on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

Those resolutions provided for significant curbs on North Korea's coal exports, a major source of revenue, restrictions on banking and mandatory searches of all cargo to and from North Korea.

The U.N. Security Council on Friday unanimously adopted a us -drafted resolution imposing new targeted sanctions on a handful of North Korean officials and entities, in response to a series of ballistic missile tests this year that are banned under U.N. resolutions. "The United States is making clear both in words and actions that all options are on the table", Japan's defense minister said.

But as US President Donald Trump pursues his "America First" policy, there is growing concern over the future role of the US in Asia.

North Korea has fully rejected the latest UN Security Council resolution to expand sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile activities, and Pyongyang intends to continue its nuclear development without any delay, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Whatever sanctions and pressure may follow, we will not flinch from the road to build up nuclear forces which was chosen to defend the sovereignty of the country and the rights to national existence and will move forward towards the final victory", the spokesman said.

In a warning to China, the defense secretary expressed his intention to maintain the "freedom of navigation" operation - maritime patrols by US military vessels and other ships - in South China Sea waterways.

Mattis also said North Korea posed a global threat and praised China's efforts to influence Pyongyang.

New US sanctions were announced Thursday in anticipation of the United Nations resolution restricting alleged suppliers to the North Korea's weapons programs, according to the US Treasury.

Mattis, however, went on to say, "We can not and will not accept unilateral, coercive changes to the status quo" in the South China Sea.

He says the situation in North Korea should provide an opportunity for Russia, China and the U.S. to cooperate and help defuse tensions on the restive peninsula.

"We seek a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China".

The three-day security conference, which ends Sunday, is also expected to focus on Islamic extremism, including the fight against the Islamic State group.

Mattis, arguably Trump's most important statesman as the new president hopes to slash the State Department, tried to allay the fears.

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